Formed by congressional proclamation, the festival began as Asian Heritage Week in 1979 and in May 1990 became a month-long celebration. President George W. Bush signed legislation appointing May Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
This year’s theme, “Unite Our Vision by Working Together."
Guest Speaker Manolita Holadia, attorney and ABAHR Director, spoke about language barriers as a hardship Asian Americans face when trying to mix into new cultures.
Holadia said some individuals decide to start their own businesses when they are unable to find jobs. For example, about 15 percent of the 522,000 Asian Americans residing in Virginia own their own businesses, such as restaurants, grocery and retail stores, she said.
Holadia asked attendees to reach over to the person sitting next to them and shake their hand.
“Let’s embrace our differences now,” said Holadia. “The next time you walk into a hotel, restaurant or any business, and maybe you don’t understand the English that they’re speaking or maybe their name is long - just be still, take a breath and try to learn about the person. You’ll find out that you may have something in common.”